75 000 could starve to death in Nige­ria af­ter Boko Haram - UN

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - National News/worldwide -

LAGOS — As many as 75 000 chil­dren will die over the next year in famine-like con­di­tions cre­ated by Boko Haram if donors don’t re­spond quickly, the UN Chil­dren’s Fund is warn­ing. That’s far more than the 20 000 peo­ple killed in the seven-year Is­lamic up­ris­ing.

The sever­ity of mal­nu­tri­tion lev­els and high num­ber of chil­dren fac­ing death make the hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis con­fronting north­east­ern Nige­ria per­haps the worst in the world, ac­cord­ing to Ar­jan de Wagt, nu­tri­tion chief for Unicef in Nige­ria. He said chil­dren al­ready are dy­ing but donors are not re­spond­ing.

Most se­verely mal­nour­ished chil­dren die of se­condary ill­nesses like di­ar­rhea and res­pi­ra­tory in­fec­tions, de Wagt told The As­so­ci­ated Press. “But with famine, you ac­tu­ally die of hunger, and that is what is hap­pen­ing,’’ he said.

Se­vere mal­nu­tri­tion is be­ing found in 20, 30 and even 50 per­cent of chil­dren in pock­ets of the re­gion, he said.

“Glob­ally, you just don’t see this. You have to go back to places like So­ma­lia five years ago to see these kinds of lev­els,” de Wagt said. Nearly 260 000 peo­ple died in So­ma­lia between 2010 and 2012 from se­vere drought ag­gra­vated by war. At the time, the United Na­tions said aid needed to be pro­vided more quickly.

The Unicef yes­ter­day dou­bled the amount of its ap­peal for Nige­ria, say­ing $115m is needed to save chil­dren whose “lives are lit­er­ally hang­ing by a thread.” Only $24m has been raised so far, the agency said.

The lack of money has meant some 750 000 peo­ple liv­ing in ac­ces­si­ble ar­eas could not be helped this year, spokes­woman Doune Porter said. Most of the es­ti­mated 2.6 mil­lion peo­ple who fled Boko Haram’s in­sur­gency are sub­sis­tence farm­ers who have been un­able to plant for two years or more.

Sev­eral thou­sand peo­ple re­turned this month from refugee camps to towns be­ing se­cured by Nige­ria’s mil­i­tary, but it’s too late to plant as the rainy sea­son draws to an end. Mean­while, Boko Haram still at­tacks out­side ur­ban ar­eas.

Of 4 mil­lion peo­ple in des­per­ate need of food are about 2.2 mil­lion peo­ple trapped in ar­eas where Boko Haram is op­er­at­ing or in newly lib­er­ated ar­eas that still are too dan­ger­ous to reach by road, de Wagt said. Among them, 65 000 are liv­ing in famine-like con­di­tions.

The cri­sis has reached “cat­a­strophic lev­els” for peo­ple who have sought refuge in towns con­trolled by the mil­i­tary but who are “en­tirely re­liant on out­side aid that does not reach them”, aid group Doc­tors With­out Borders said Wed­nes­day.

“Many fam­i­lies are only able to eat once ev­ery few days and — usually only watered-down por­ridge,” said Ox­fam aid group spokesper­son Christina Cor­bett. “They are go­ing to bed hun­gry and wak­ing up with no way to change that.”

The Unicef lim­ited its out­reach to the re­gion af­ter Boko Haram fight­ers at­tacked a mil­i­tary-es­corted hu­man­i­tar­ian con­voy in July, wound­ing a Unicef worker and oth­ers when a rocket hit an ar­mored car.

But de Wagt said the agency con­tin­ues to de­liver some ther­a­peu­tic food by he­li­copter and to train lo­cal health work­ers to treat mal­nour­ished chil­dren liv­ing in dan­ger­ous ar­eas.

Doc­tors With­out Borders, also known by the French acro­nym MSF, said the high­est lev­els of starv­ing chil­dren are in camps in Maiduguri, the north­east­ern city free of con­flict where aid work­ers have been ac­tive for two years.

“The mor­tal­ity rate is five times higher than what is con­sid­ered an emer­gency, with the main cause be­ing hunger,” it said in its state­ment.

AP has reported re­cent al­le­ga­tions by dis­placed peo­ple and aid work­ers that food aid is be­ing stolen in Maiduguri. Nige­ria’s govern­ment has said it would in­ves­ti­gate.

MSF said Nige­rian au­thor­i­ties are re­spon­si­ble for en­sur­ing aid is de­liv­ered and de­scribed the over­all aid re­sponse as “mas­sively in­suf­fi­cient, un­co­or­di­nated and ill-adapted.” — AP

The war in Dar­fur is not over. Ac­cord­ing to a new Amnesty In­ter­na­tional re­port, the govern­ment used chem­i­cal weapons in Jan­uary on its ci­ti­zens, killing as many as 250 peo­ple, many of them chil­dren AFP

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